Earlier this month, Ultrarunning Magazine published an article I wrote about my experience running through the night during The Great New York 100 Mile Running Exposition. Enjoy!
Joan Marie Lemke Walker (Grandma Joan)
"No despair of ours can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there. Indeed, we are in the midst of it, and it is in the midst of us, for it beats in our very blood, whether we want it or not."
- Thomas Merton
Here's some behind the scenes photos I took during the VARLET film shoot in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont earlier this month.
The cast and crew battled through rough winter weather that included deep snow and subzero temperatures. Hats off to them for their grit and a big thanks to those who helped us reach our goal by donating to the film (www.gofundme.com/varlet).
Very excited for the day when I get to share VARLET with you all!
What is it then between us?
What is the count of the scores or hundreds of years between us?
Whatever it is, it avails not—distance avails not, and place avails not,
I too lived, Brooklyn of ample hills was mine,
I too walk'd the streets of Manhattan island, and bathed in the waters around it,
I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within me.
- Walt Whitman
I've recently finished VARLET, a short western screenplay about a backwoods trapper forced into a life or death situation when he encounters a dangerous stranger at his camp. It will be filmed in northern Vermont in March of 2018, and my collaborators and I have started a fundraising campaign to go towards the necessary artists, props, costumes, food and transportation for filming. Click the donate button below if you are interested in contributing. We'd really appreciate it!
It was announced last week that Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones and Trevor Hoffman would represent the National Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2018. It is always a day I look forward to.
I remember watching Jim Thome play 3rd base in the Kingdome against the Seattle Mariners during the 1995 ALCS playoffs. He was a dominate power threat on those roster-stacked Cleveland Indians teams of the mid 90's, now sitting 8th on the all-time home run list.
For years I saw Vladimir Guerrero tear up the AL West, crushing balls thrown out of the strike zone without the need of batting gloves.
Chipper Jones was on TV throughout my youth, seeming to always be on base as I flipped through the channels, briefly stopping on TBS.
Since Trevor Hoffman played his entire career in the National League, I didn't have as much exposure to him, but it was clear he was a respected reliever, holding the 2nd most saves in baseball history.
Remembering the careers of these 4 new Hall of Famers inspired me to dust off some old photos I took from my visit to Cooperstown in 2016, shortly after Ken Griffey Jr. had been inducted. Hopefully they will spark some excitement for the spring on a winter's day in late January.
Here's a feature article I wrote for Ultrarunning Magazine about Trishul Cherns. With several Canadian national records and over 42,000 ultramarathon racing miles under his belt, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy Trishul's inspiring story of running, spirituality, and pushing personal limits.
In Princeton, New Jersey, not far off from the elegant campus of Princeton University, is an old cemetery containing the gravesites of Grover Cleveland and Aaron Burr.
Gravesite Location: The Princeton Cemetery of Nassau Presbyterian Church (29 Greenview Avenue, Princeton, New Jersey)
- 22nd and 24th President of the United States (1885-1889, 1893-1897)
- Born March 18, 1837 in Caldwell, New Jersey
- Died June 24, 1908 (age 71) in Princeton, New Jersey
- Democratic Party
- Lost to Benjamin Harrison in the 1888 presidential election despite winning the popular vote
- Won the popular vote in all 3 of his presidential bids (1884, 1888, 1892)
- The only U.S. president to serve 2 non-consecutive terms in office
- Vice President to Thomas Jefferson during his 1st term (1801-1805)
- Born February 6, 1756 in Newark, New Jersey
- Died September 14, 1836 (age 80) in Staten Island, New York
- Infamously shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in 1804, thus ending his career in politics
- Democratic-Republican Party
I made a side trip to Kinderhook, New York - the hometown and gravesite of Martin Van Buren, the 8th President of the United States.
Known as Lindenwald, his house has been preserved as a National Historic Site and is available to tour. Many of Van Buren's original possessions remain in the house, including the bed he died in. Here are some photos from my visit.
Home Location: 1013 Old Post Road - Kinderhook, New York
Gravesite Location: Kinderhook Reformed Church Cemetery - Kinderhook, New York
Martin Van Buren
- 8th President of the United States (1837-1841)
- Born December 5th, 1782 in Kinderhook, New York
- Died July 24, 1862 (age 79) in Kinderhook, New York
- Democratic Party
- Vice President to Andrew Jackson (1833-1837)
- Ran unsuccessfully for the Presidency 3 more times (1840, 1844, 1848 - including under the anti-slavery Free Soil Party in 1848).
- The first President to be born after the United States declared independence.
- The only U.S. President to speak English as a second language (Dutch was his first).
A short distance from Lindenwald is Van Buren's gravesite in Kinderhook Reformed Church Cemetery, as well as the location of the house where he was born.
Here are photographs from my visit to the gravesite of Chester A. Arthur, the 21st President of the United States.
Gravesite Location: Albany Rural Cemetery - Menands, NY (Section 24, Lot 8)
Chester A. Arthur
- 21st President of the United States (1881-1885)
- Born: October 5, 1830 in Fairfield, Vermont
- Died: November 18, 1886 (age 56) in Manhattan, New York
- Republican Party
- Succeeded President James A. Garfield after his assassination in office
After reading more about his ascension to the Presidency, I visited other notable places from Arthur's life, including his home on Manhattan's east side (123 Lexington Avenue). A little after 2:10am on September 20, 1881, in the ground floor parlor of his home, he was sworn in as President after the assassination of James A. Garfield. He also died in this building in 1886. Kalustyan's, a specialty store featuring foods from around the world, now occupies the space. There is a commemorative plaque at the residential entrance (it is behind glass and didn't photograph well).
After his death, his funeral was held at the Church of the Heavenly Rest (5th Avenue and 90th Street). In attendance that day was President Grover Cleveland and President Rutherford B. Hayes.
And last, at the northeast corner entrance of Manhattan's Madison Square Park (at Madison Avenue and E. 26th Street), there is a bronze statue of Chester A. Arthur. It was dedicated on June 13, 1899.
Some photographs from my visit to Springwood - FDR's home in Hyde Park, New York (about 2 hours north of NYC). Click here for more information to tour his home, visit his gravesite and walk through the large museum. If you are in New York, this is a not miss for any fan of U.S. history.
This past September I toed the starting line at the IMTUF 100 just outside McCall, Idaho. I was kicking myself while camping the night before for not bringing a warmer sleeping bag as I woke up several times to find myself shivering. Once we got moving it wasn't as cold. After around 5 miles, I started feeling a pain toward the back of my knee and tried to stretch it several times thinking as the temperature got warmer it would loosen. It ended up going the other direction and got worse as the pain began to shift to just above the side of my knee and I eventually figured out it was my IT band. It got to the point that by mile 15 or so I couldn't run anymore and it was a huge chore to even hike on a steep downhill. I didn't feel any pain though while power hiking flats and hills, and made the decision to just keep hiking and enjoy the day until I timed out of the race. That moment came at mile 58 just after 2am but before then I experienced one of the most enjoyable days on the trail in the past year. The IMTUF 100 course is incredibly scenic, well run and tough, and I met several other runners along the way, had visits from my crew of family and friends, shared some great miles with Kerry who paced me that last 10 miles or so, and was able to see a beautiful area of mountains in central Idaho that I'd never seen before. As disappointing as it was to experience my 2nd DNF, knowing that I did what I could and stayed on top of things mentally had me leaving the race feeling that it was a positive experience. I went to the finish line for the last few hours of the race and cheered the final finishers. There's nothing like watching people cross the line after running 100 miles…it's one of my favorite things to do.
The IMTUF 100 is definitely one to come back to and I'm considering running it again next year. I've been 100% healed up for several weeks now and have started to plan out 2015. I'm registered for the Austin Marathon on February 15 and I'll figure out the rest of the year after the Western States 100 lottery drawing on December 6.
This is a very late post but back in July I had the awesome opportunity to travel around Vermont and New Hampshire before running the Vermont 100. Was very impressed with the Green and White Mountains and I'm trying to figure out a way to go back there soon to get a peek at the fall colors.
The Vermont 100 went really well with my friend Beth taking the train up to Windsor to crew and pace me. As memory serves, I physically fell apart with blisters under the balls of both of my feet around mile 80 or so (maybe it was earlier?) and death marched it in with Beth by my side. Was mentally on top of it all day and night, with the exception of battling sleepiness and impatience as the night wore on. Was very happy to finish in 27:32:20.
I'm trying to resurrect this blog and hope to get a post out soon about my IMTUF 100 run last week.
Playing major catch up here! Ran TNF 50 at Bear Mountain for the 3rd consecutive year back in May. There was a course change which made it easier on paper…what wasn't foreseen was that the area had severe rains the few days prior to the race and major sections of the course were underwater. It was a lot of slogging through the mud and after it was done, I remember thinking that the course was actually tougher this year because of the conditions. Despite this fact, I felt mentally on top of things much more than the previous 2 years…rebounding from a healthy puking session shortly after the 40 mile mark was a highlight of this. TNF 50 is always a good spring fitness test…not sure if I will run it next year or if I might try something different. I would like to come back and try to lower my time eventually and know if I can manage my nausea I could easily take 2 hours off my best time here. Definitely one of the most difficult ultras in the area and was glad to get my 3rd finish.
Got 'er done!!!
Ran the L.A. Marathon with Andy Garfield who completed his first 26.2 miles. The run started at Dodger Stadium and worked it's way through Los Angeles, passing though Hollywood, Beverly Hills and ended at the beach in Santa Monica. A great day spent with one of my best friends.
This past March I had the chance to visit Joshua Tree National Park, my 14th National Park, with my friend Andy. We took a hike on the Boy Scout Trail on the Northwest section of the park. Here's some pictures from the trip:
On March 2nd I rode out with Wayne, Cherie and Mary to the Caumsett Park 50k in Long Island, NY. Having signed up to run the L.A. Marathon the following weekend, I had no intention to run, but to volunteer. For the Vermont 100 I needed 8 hours of volunteer service. I could have used the day I volunteered for the Telluride Mountain Run this past summer for my requirements, but I think it's good to give back and help out for the sake of helping out…and since my friends Cherie Yanek and Mary Harvey were running, I figured I could cheer them along as well.
Riding to the race, the first thing I noticed was how much more snow was on the ground than last year when I went to film a short documentary about Ray K. It was virtually bare ground then, but this year had a decent deposit of snow. As luck would have it, the wind never picked up during the day, so even though there was more snow, it was much warmer than last year.
The start of the Caumsett Park 50k.
I watched the start of the race, then rode out to the marathon mark to help with timing. They had a special mat at the 26.2 mark so the fast runners could gain a Boston qualifying time in addition to their 50k finish. I spent the first few hours entering numbers in the computer to double check against the chip timing for the marathon, then went back to the tent by the start/finish line to print out results and split times for runners who had finished.
As I printed out statistics, I got to chat with a number of other volunteers and runners and met a lot of people. The Greater Long Island Running Club seemed like a solid organization and community to be a part of and the highlight of the day was getting to know various people at the race. Both the men's and women's course records ended up being broken, so it was an exciting event to be a part of. I was very thankful to get a ride out of the park by Rich from the Broadway Ultra Society…I've been wanting to do a timed event for a while, like a 6 hour or 12 hour...I'll have to do one of his races at some point.
So now I've filmed at Caumsett one year and volunteered another. The only thing left to do is run it. Would be a great course for a fast 50k time or a Boston qualifier, and it's only an hour away from Brooklyn:)
2013 has been quite the busy year and subsequently the blog has suffered. I've run 3 races since I last posted about the TNF 50 Miler at Bear Mountain: Cayuga Trails 50, White River 50 and the Leadville 100. All three were great events with their own unique flavor. Cayuga Trails was the inaugural race and had a course that featured runners passing around 20 different waterfalls through amazing gorges and rock structures. White River was perhaps the most scenic race I've ever run, with inspiring views of Mount Rainier and although I lost my stomach several times heading up to Sun Top, I managed to PR. Leadville 100 was my main focus and all was going well until I was about a mile from the top of Hope Pass and felt a pressure on the bone on my right inner knee. As I crested the top of the pass, I started running down the backside and that pressure turned into shooting pain which left me unable to walk (let alone run) and I hobbled using my trekking poles as crutches all the way down to Winfield (50 mile mark) to drop out. It was my first DNF so it was a bit hard to swallow as I like to finish what I start, but so far it's been good to step back and contemplate how my running's gone this past year. I'm looking to get much faster so I don't have to worry about cut-offs, so I'm going to use training for the NYC Marathon as a way to improve my speed and then hopefully carry that fitness into next years ultra schedule. The knee feels much better (although not healed) so as soon as I'm good to run again you can bet I'll be mixing in more speedwork into my training.
Besides the races, I went on perhaps the roadtrip of my life this summer spending time in Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Utah and Colorado. I made it a priority to explore wherever I went, so I got in a lot of running and hiking on trails of all types, visited 7 National Parks (Theodore Roosevelt, Glacier, Mount Rainier, Arches, Canyonlands, Mesa Verde, Rocky Mountain), and got to see several sections of the Hardrock 100 course (probably the highlight of the whole summer). The San Juan's are the most spectacular mountain range I've ever been to and I'm excited for the next time I can go back to visit them. In the mean time I'll be back in NYC to start grad school for Playwriting at Brooklyn College. I've very excited about being back in school and hope to find a good balance between staying mentally creative and physically active.
Near the top of Kendall Mountain, 3,500 ft. above Silverton, CO
For the second year in a row, Crest Hardware & Urban Garden Center has sponsored me to run the McCarren Park 5k. It's been a good humbling but fun reminder of how slow of a runner I actually am. I know I can get faster if I'd add just a little speedwork into my training and would like to run a sub 20 minute 5k this year which is totally doable. I ended up finishing a minute and a half slower than last year, crossing the finish line a few seconds after 23:00. A big reason for the slow down was my quads were still pretty sore from the Bear Mountain 50 miler a week before, but my lungs were also burning pretty good, so it wasn't all the tired legs. Still it was fun to deck myself out in Crest gear and run a few loops around McCarren Park.
What a difference a year makes on the memory. Since I ran The North Face 50 Miler in Bear Mountain last May I had forgotten the many details of why this race is so difficult. This past weekend, while I was in the middle of being put through the wringer, it slapped me in the face as it all came back to me. Only two days later though, the reality of the situation has begun to fade exponentially. To be a consistent ultrarunner one must have an inconsistent memory. Already I’ve begun to romanticize the run: Picking my way along the loose rocks and gnarly roots. Kneeling down to splash cold water on my face and neck to cool off as I crossed one of the many streams. Running past the white blazes of the Appalachian Trail, seeing campers cooking breakfast outside of their tents in the early morning and having my mind wondering what it would be like to continue on this trail, or the other great American trails like the PCT or the Continental Divide Trail. One year I will thru-hike the AT I promise myself as I look around to a 360 degree view of the rolling northeastern deciduous forests. And running down the finish chute while being cheered on by my friend Cherie and getting that long-awaited glorious medal placed around my neck all seem more than worth it.
What happened to cursing the terrain and agitatedly swatting flies away from my ears as I hiked up a steep ascent of loose and jagged rocks? Where’s all the worrying that I might pass out while running because I only got 2 hours of sleep the night before? No more stomach troubles that slowed me down as I constantly tried to suppress the desire to vomit for fear of losing all my calories and hydration and getting into REAL trouble. Gone is the uncontrollable crying at the sight of an older man with determination on his face and the care in the eyes of his wife and kids surrounding him about to send him off for his last 10 tough miles. Blowing out my quads a few miles later while picking my way down a steep and technical downhill and weakly asking myself how in the world am I going to finish Leadville are now only viewed as a dream. Moments that seemed dire have been transformed into delight, like getting passed by a guy around mile 46 doing an 8 minute pace saying he just wants to hurry up and finish so he can go home and eat, then catching up to him sitting on a rock a mile later at the top of a brutal climb as he vomited off the trailside, then being passed by him again another mile later with a smile on his face saying he got his second wind and we should have a beer at the finish.
This is the spirit of the ultra. And although I remember telling myself in the moment that this is the last ultra I was going to run and I don’t have to do these things anymore, I’ve lost the desperation behind those words and it all doesn’t seem so bad now that I sit on my easy chair typing this. It doesn’t seem justified anymore. I know that I run these because they are not easy and the lower the lows get, the higher the highs seem to be. So bring on the Cayuga Trails 50 in June, the White River 50 in July and the looming Leadville 100 in August. I’ll be sure to have forgotten every reason not to run them by then.
And PS...after the race Wayne and Cherie gave me a ride back to Brooklyn where I performed Ferapont in Chekhov’s Three Sisters alongside an awesome cast who I really respect. It was one of the strangest and wonderful stage experiences I’ve ever had, acting after running 50 miles, being completely in the moment and too tired to over-think anything, just do. I highly recommend it to any actor:)